Baby’s Thanksgiving Table: Fun & Flavorful

Greetings and Happy Thanksgiving!

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Whether your little one is just starting out on purees, or you have an older baby mastering finger foods, Thanksgiving is one of the best times of year for introducing flavor to your child’s ever-growing palate!

As adults we are fortunate to enjoy all the flavors and spices of the season:  Delicious roasted turkey rubbed with savory herb butter.  Sage, rosemary and thyme play prominent roles in flavoring stuffing and seasonal root vegetables. Pumpkin pies and sweets are amped up with cinnamon, nutmeg and clove.

We often think we have to create separate and bland versions of these dishes for baby because they are too young for such tastes.

But I assure you they are not!

As you know, my mission is to encourage parents to feed their babies diverse foods and seasonings from the very first bites.  Including your baby in the family meal (and Thanksgiving is the ultimate family meal!), flavors and all, is a great start to raising an adventurous eater.

So how can we bring these flavors to our babies and toddlers?

  • For brand new eaters (6 months and up), puree parts of the Thanksgiving meal.  Roasted root vegetables, like parsnip or carrots, are easily turned into the right consistency with the help of a little stock or water. Flavor them with whatever you usually use—rosemary, sage, cumin, even a bit of mild curry powder.  Let your little one explore, in puree form, what you are feeding the adults.
  • For older babies, roasted or steamed root vegetables are the perfect finger food.  Already soft and tender, you simply have to cut the veggies into bite-size pieces and serve.
  • Other ideas? Sweet potato puree with a pinch of baby-friendly ground cinnamon and/or nutmeg, good for all ages.
  • Mashed potatoes with herbed garlic butter.  Children and potatoes usually go together well!
  • Thanksgiving soups, ranging from brothy to creamy are perfect to serve to babies.  Butternut squash soup, in particular, is a favorite.  It’s a flavorful, yet mild vegetable and can be spiced with everything from onion and garlic to nutmeg and sage.
  • Pumpkin puree with cinnamon, clove or pumpkin pie spice mix is always a nice and easy way to introduce flavors.
  • Stuffing. Yes, your baby can have some, but probably best to make sure your little one is ready for finger foods.  Also, watch out for large chunks of nuts or raisins or other items that might be too big for baby. Otherwise stuffing is a treat!
  • Cranberry Applesauce.  Whisk a little cranberry sauce into your regular applesauce for a sweet and tasty dessert.

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Thanksgiving is about loved ones, food and family.  And a good meal can bring us all together.  Include your little butterball in all of the foodie festivities!

From Ela’s highchair to your little one’s, bon appetit and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!

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Food and Love. For all.

20160910_124104Dear Friends,

I am having a hard time talking about babyfood or any food this week. My heart really aches for everything that has been happening around us since the election. The fear, the anxiety, the darkness that seems to be surrounding us all. I am saddened by everything, but particularly saddened that our little ones are having to navigate through such weighty issues at such a young age.

One thing that has helped this past week is simply being around my two little girls.  Being 5 and 2.5 years old brings a sense of pure innocence and happy energy to our home. Their needs are few–love, hugs, food and Anna and Elsa dress-up clothes.  Kirina and Ela spin around the living room literally singing with glee.

I suppose that is how it should be at this age.

But I realized something pretty important in watching them play. Seeds, of everything, get planted in them at such an early age. Want them to eat diverse? Start young! Want them to be compassionate? Start young! Want them to have manners and be respectful? Start young! It feels overwhelming to think that YOU, as a parent or caregiver are tasked with teaching them all these things.  Yes, it’s scary, but wow.  You alone have the power to mold your child into someone who is full of love, open-mindedness and compassion. Someone who will be a global citizen.

For me personally, I want to make sure my little ones learn about all of the different cultures and customs in the world.  How we all may look and sound different, but are the same on the inside and have the same color blood.  That each culture has something wonderful just waiting to be discovered.  A new custom or birthday ritual. A different way of cooking or eating your favorite fruit or vegetable.  Merely realizing that your curiosity should lead you on a new adventure, instead of fearing what is different.

We have so much to learn from one another.  Fun, amazing things that can enrich your heart and mind.

If you are looking for ways to raise a globally aware citizen, someone who is open-minded and curious, try introducing some new ideas.  Something as simple as a pasta noodle can go a long way in teaching diversity.  From Italian spaghetti, to the Japanese ramen noodle, to the Southeast Asian rice noodle.  Venture out to different enclaves in your neighborhood to try new restaurants. Find a favorite Portuguese place or eat Biriyani at an Indian place. Meet new people and learn about them. Teach kids that culture and diversity are everywhere.  And that’s fun to embrace diversity.

Food isn’t going to heal our nation so instantly.  I know that. But it’s one way to bring everyone together. And it gives me comfort, in times like these, that no matter what is happening around me, I have the power to teach and raise and expose my children to the world and all of it’s beautiful citizens.

Please be kind to each other in the coming weeks and always.

From Kirina and Ela’s dining room chairs to your little one’s, bon appetit!

 

 

 

 

 

“Everybody Cooks Rice”

Greetings and Happy Fall!

I’ve been on a blogging break as of late.  But for a good reason! I’ve been on a little tour with what I like to call my third baby, my baby food cookbook, Around the World in 80 Purees: Easy Recipes for Global Baby Food.  It’s been fun!  Between that and running after my two actual “masala babies,” however, I’ve found it nearly impossible to keep a regular blogging schedule.

But I had to write today because I ran into such a lovely little book at the local library yesterday! It was one of those books you are drawn to and meant to find. Little Ela happily sat down in an aisle after finally finding a stash of books and as I sat next to her my eyes landed upon a book called Everybody Cooks Rice by Norah Dooley:

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Now, as you know, I’m obsessed with all things global food.  I am fascinated by what people eat around the world and how the same ingredient is prepared in totally different ways to create unique dishes representative of that country or region.  And this worn, bunny-eared, little book was calling my name right there in the children’s section of the library.

The story is about a little girl named Carrie who’s been sent looking for her little brother Anthony, whose gone off to play in the neighborhood somewhere. The young girl visits several neighbors’ homes: the Darlingtons from Barbados, the Diazes from Puerto Rico, the Huas from China, the Trans from Vietnam, the Bleus from Haiti and even encounters a little Indian boy carrying a tiffin (Indian stainless steel lunch containers) full of food.

In each home, dinner is being prepared, particularly dishes involving the humble little rice grain. The Diazes are making rice with black-eyed peas, adorned with friend onions and bacon.  Carrie is offered a bowl and loves it.  She remembers she’s supposed to be looking for her little brother so she tries another house.  She soon discovers with each visit that because her neighbors are from different countries they are preparing their rice dishes in different ways! She ends up tasting Vietnamese rice with nuoc cham, a garlicky fish sauce, Creole rice, which is spicy and Carribean-style rice, which is bright and yellow from a spice called turmeric, and biriyani, an Indian-spiced baked rice dish. When Carrie finally finds her brother and comes home, she’s not only stuffed full of yummy rice dishes, but discovers that her Italian mommy is cooking rici e bisi, rice with peas, Parmesan, butter and grated nutmeg.

What a beautiful story of food, culture and community!

The book really struck me, because it’s one of those rare children’s books that teaches not only diversity of food, but diversity of culture, which often can be found right on your own street (or as the book jacket aptly describes, Carrie discovers a “new world right in her own backyard”).

I aspire to teach my children about the world and all the beautiful and interesting citizens in it. As this book, and hopefully my own cookbook shows, you can teach your children about world culture through every single meal you serve them.  A passport on a plate as I like to say. You are not only teaching your children to be diverse eaters, but teaching them about other cultures and customs that might be new to them.  This is turn teaches little ones respect and open-mindedness, lasting life lessons.

Food brings everyone together, and crosses all borders. I can’t wait to find more diverse books like this one for my little ones (and me!).

From Ela’s highchair to your little one’s, bon appetit!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easy Ways to Dress Up Yogurt for Babies (Adults Too!)

Hello Everyone!

Baby yogurt. Best thing ever.  It’s easy, nutritious and always available. Best of all, Ela loves the stuff.  When my harried self is at a loss (or just too exhausted) for lunch or snack ideas a little container of yogurt comes to our rescue.  Not only Ela, but Kirina and even myself slurp down cooling yogurt in one form or another (Kirina has moved onto yogurt tubes, me, I sort of indulge in a few bites of Ela’s yogurt.  The years of buying creamy, whole-milk yogurt are fleeting and I must take advantage!  It’s so much tastier than the adult, boring, low-fat stuff.  Sigh.  I love dairy fat.  The fat does not love me back).

Whole milk yogurt doesn’t always come in lots of flavors. Yes, there are the pre-made baby yogurt containers, but Ela grew weary of those week after week….after week…after, um week (two kids equals chaos.  which equals a heavy reliance on yogurt containers).  Our wallet also grew weary.  Mommy had to think fast! I tried this:

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Whole milk yogurt.  Plain.  Creamy.  Organic.  Yum, right?  I got this in response:

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More of a yuck than a yum.

I can’t blame her.  It’s not like I sit around eating plain yogurt either. I eat it with fresh fruit, a spoonful of jam, even a sprinkling of ground cardamom.

Think of yogurt as a blank canvas for you to decorate with fun flavors. Not only are you creating variety for your little one, but you are also training their taste buds to appreciate new tastes.  Here’s a combo Ela appreciated:

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Kiwi, mango and cardamom.

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The kiwi was fresh and the mango frozen (frozen fruits are a wonderful thing to have on hand!  Especially for out-of-season fruits).  I ground up the cardamom, just a pinch, with a mortar and pestle.  Just mash everything up and add to yogurt.  The consistency will depend on the age of your baby (chunkier textures are ok for babies over 8 months).

Try other fruits and spices too.  Cinnamon, grated nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice. Get creative to keep baby’s taste buds happy and engaged!

From Ela’s highchair to your little one’s bon appetit!

Crying Over Milk, Part 2

Nikon photos 022Hi Everyone,

Yes, it’s been 2 months since I’ve written anything.  I can’t believe it!  The last time I wrote I mentioned I was just starting to wean little Ela.  I was certainly having mixed feelings about it, but I decided after she turned one in March that it was time.  Over the last few months I’ve been dropping feedings, going gradually, to see how we would do.  We were down to one last evening feed before bedtime, probably my favorite time to feed her b/c she is so tired and relaxed and peaceful. All seemed fine.

And then it wasn’t.  And it hasn’t been.

About four weeks ago I developed a clogged milk duct. A painful, sore to the max, awful lumpy clogged duct.  I was exhausted and stressed out, but this was a new kind of exhaustion.  Not to mention I couldn’t sleep b/c every time I was on my side it killed.  I knew this was a possible side-effect of weaning, but I’m not sure I was really expecting it (at least not that kind of pain). I knew dropping that last feeding at night had to be done, if only to set my body and boob back to some sort of normal.

Boy was I mistaken.  I finally got up the courage to stop nursing Ela and since then nothing has been “normal.”

Yes, the infection cleared up. But It’s been a horror of hormones, emotions, fatigue and everything else since then. When I say horror, that is exactly how it feels. I feel like I am grieving something, which sounds ridiculous, but I have feelings of grief that remind me of when I lost my mom ten years ago. I cry at EVERYTHING. I cry at bottles, at heating up milk that comes from a carton out of the refrigerator and not me (mind you, I’d been giving Ela a bottle in the daytime so it’s not like we went cold turkey or anything).  I cry at songs, TV commercials and in the shower. I am absolutely bereft and never in a million years did I expect to feel this way.

Physically it has been no picnic either.  I am exhausted, like first-trimester exhausted. I get chills at night where my teeth chatter, and no number of fluffy blankets can make it stop. I’ve had heart palpitations, weird food aversions, loss of appetite and just feel sort of blah in general.

I scoured my baby books for any information on weaning side effects. Understandably, there is a lot of literature on the effects it has on a baby, but I was actually surprised at the dearth of info out there for how it affects a woman’s body.  An internet search did lead me to lots of blog posts and some journal articles about this and thank God, because I was beginning to think I was crazy!

Why doesn’t anyone talk about this?! Weaning is HARD! I am finding there are TONS of women out there that have experienced what I’ve been feeling…heavy, low feelings, physical aches and pains, a basic withdrawal of some sort that is hard to just put into words.

I’ve been struggling with this so much, but I think I’m starting to piece things together.  It was important to write this blog post today because I truly do think there is not enough out there for women who are weaning and experiencing these side effects.  For me, I definitely think there is a physical component at work.  When you nurse, all those good endorphins and oxytocin are released into your bloodstream, basically giving you a high whenever you feed.  After a year, my body must be used to that natural pick-me-up.  It will take time for my body to go back to it’s pre-nursing, pre-pregnant chemistry (let’s hope this happens fast b/c this sucks. Er, well, it doesn’t suck, that’s the problem, ha. ).

Mentally, it’s more challenging I think.  Ela is our last baby.  She is the last baby I will ever nurse.  She is the last baby who I can cradle in my arms, who will play with my gold necklace and pull my hair when she snuggles next to me and nurses.  I will never give that kind of nourishment to a living creature again.  It’s the end, simply put, of that charming baby phase.  No one even calls her a baby anymore.  She’s a toddler.  Gasp!

For days I grappled with whether I was doing the right thing.  I even researched ways to go back to nursing (which apparently you can.  It’s called re-lactation).  But deep down I know I will have to wean someday.  I will have to confront these feelings of sadness, of loss.  I know this all might sound ridiculous.  Loss of what? Your baby is fine! She is. But I’m perhaps not.  Not yet anyway.  I think it’s not something that is not often discussed, but grief can come in so many forms, so many shades.  Particularly after losing your mom, or parent, or a loved one, any other kind of loss feels so amplified.  It’s like your mind doesn’t know how to keep things in perspective and it goes into extreme grieving mode…the memory of past grief sends your brain into a tizzy.

So how’s Ela been with all this? Just FINE. More than fine.  She eats, and eats and eats some more.  She’s a tiny little thing who just loves food, loves to be fed, loves to laugh and loves to smear yogurt all over her face (and mine).  I actually tried to nurse her a couple days ago to see what would happen.  She looked confused and then laughed at me.  Something she’d always wanted and within a matter of days she’s moved on.

But that’s a good thing.  It’s reassuring to know she’s ok and not dwelling.  She’s growing and moving onto the next phase of her life.  Walking. Talking. Growing some more teeth (she still only has two!).

I woke up this morning feeling a little better.  I am getting there in small baby steps and am excited I actually had the drive to write.  And some time to cook up some yummy food for her and Kirina.  Let’s hope for brighter days. 🙂

From Ela’s (yogurt-smeared) highchair to your little one’s, bon appetit!

Crying Over Milk: The Unexpected Sadness of Weaning

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Wow.  Ela is 11-months-old.

When did that happen?!

She started off as a 5lb peanut and suddenly she is a crawling/standing/cruising 15lb butterball!

This week’s post isn’t really food-related.  But definitely nourishment-related.  I’ve made the decision to stop nursing in a month.

I can’t tell you how mixed-up I am over this decision.  I thought when the time came I’d be jumping for joy.  No more nursing in the car in a supermarket parking lot.  Yay!  In restaurants while trying to eat a meal.  Yay!  In front of llamas at the zoo (for real, this happened).  Yay!

Instead, I’m left with a rather heavy, emotional feeling, which I can only call sadness.  But why? I’ve been thinking about this a lot the past few weeks.

I never even thought I’d be able to nurse Ela.  I couldn’t nurse Kirina, my oldest, and didn’t expect anything different the second time around.  With Kirina, who spent time in the NICU while I recovered from a difficult childbirth, nursing never came naturally.  I was sad, frustrated and unfairly chided myself for being a mommy failure because I didn’t produce enough milk.  But I didn’t have to chide myself—Kirina enjoyed her formula and whatever breast milk I had and has grown into a fine, happy (sometimes crazy) toddler.

My experience with Ela, on the other hand, has been completely different.  She was handed to me minutes after she was born (an astounding feeling in and of itself) and almost immediately started rooting around looking to nurse.  For real!  I was completely and utterly amazed.  She knew exactly what to do.  I still find it pretty awesome that such a synergy, such a bond can exist between a mother and child, only minutes after meeting one other.

I cannot adequately describe the wonder of watching a little being grow and thrive, solely on the milk that I’ve been providing for her.   But it isn’t just Ela who’s been thriving–it’s been me too.  In unexpected ways.  Biologically I feel relaxed, calmer, when she latches on.  But mentally, that feeling of providing, of nourishing Ela on so many different levels…it leaves me content, happy and full of love.  I’m not sure how to even describe, adequately, that part of it.  I’m just stunned that in my life, I’ve had the opportunity to nourish someone’s tummy and someone’s soul.

We are not having anymore children.  So Ela is it in terms of all things baby.  Perhaps I am sad because the end of nursing means the end of that sweet baby phase, which I will never be able to experience again.  It’s overwhelming to think that phase of my life can be over just like that.  No more nursing her to sleep, no more rocking her in my arms in that way, no more playing with her little wisps of hair while I cradle her.   The fleeting nature of those tender baby years…I really feel that right now.

This post is certainly a bit sad.  But I am happy little Ela is thriving and ready for the next phase.  She’s starting to walk, use a cup, eat more varieties of food.  She is a sweet and happy little soul and I have to let her grow up.  I realized this a few weeks ago when I gave her some water in a cup.  She was thrilled! Her face said it all: “Mommy, you wench, you’ve been holding out on me! This cup contraption is great and it takes HALF the time to suck down liquids. Cool beans.”

Ok. She doesn’t talk. And she didn’t say “cool beans.”  But she will one day.

At any rate, I am thankful to have had this experience with Ela.  Anytime you feed your baby it is an amazing thing.  You, and only you, whether through breast, bottle or spoon, are nourishing your baby and helping them grow.  It’s the most important work you will ever do.

From Ela’s highchair to your little one’s bon appetite!

Ginger to the Rescue: Using Spices to Boost Baby’s Immunity & Soothe Tummies

My babies are sick. 😦

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In fact, my whole family got sick this past week. Ela, who just turned 9-months, has been battling a cold and chest congestion, while Kirina, 3-years, got nailed with the stomach bug. My poor husband (who shouldered most of the cleaning-up and rescue duty because he 1) has a stronger stomach than me 2) is more mature about baby throw-up, meaning, he doesn’t scream and run away and 3) he’s just better at this stuff, or, so I tell myself.  Whatever, he’s just the better parent and I suck! But I digress) also got nailed with some hybrid of whatever the girls have.  Me?  I’m coughing a lot, and losing my mind (update: I started this post a few days ago. I now have a fever and am totally miserable!).

We haven’t been able to eat much in the Saini household this week, but some things have been wonderful.  In fact, they’ve been surprisingly effective.  The first being ginger, our new best friend.  Did you know ginger has been around for a zillion years and is known to soothe all sorts of tummy problems?  It reduces inflammation and is very protective. Asian countries use ginger in just about everything, particularly ginger teas (I remember drinking hot water and ginger infusions when I was pregnant).  Kirina’s nurse even recommended flat ginger ale for her stomach.

How could I use ginger with Ela?  Too young for soda for sure, but it got me thinking, what if I infuse cooking water with ginger and boil/steam her veggies in it?  I tried a carrot and ginger combo.  I thought it would be a great immunity booster, and also a gentle way to introduce ginger to her palate (hey, I have to multi-task. I’m still in the business of spicing up baby food people!).

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It was awesome! And super easy. Simply take a slice or two of fresh ginger root and add it to your water while boiling/steaming your vegetable of choice.  The carrots took on a lovely, light ginger flavor.  Ela ate them all up! I think this cooking method would be fabulous with lots of different herbs and spices.  Mint, cilantro, basil leaves, etc.  Even a clove or two in boiling water would create a nice perfume and gentle flavor.

Give it a try and let me know your thoughts! And most of all, stay well this holiday (and cold and flu) season.  Lots of love!

From Ela’s highchair to your little one’s, bon appetit!